School “nutrition” in the eye of the beholder

School nutrition is in the news again. A new survey shows that most people support healthier options in vending machines and school stores. But they might be surprised what the government considers “healthier.” (Although the whole “pizza is a vegetable” debacle should give them a hint.)

The survey, conducted by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, shows that most people agree that chips, soda, and candy bars kids buy at school are not nutritious. They also agree that breakfasts and lunches sold at schools aren’t nutritious. And they support a national standard for foods sold at schools.

And that’s the plan, as the U.S. government prepares to set new rules requiring healthier foods to be sold in the vending machines found in schools.

But the big plan calls for replacing the soda, candy bars, etc. with juice, granola bars and similar “healthier” products.

These are anything BUT healthy!

Is anyone actually reading the labels on these products? Obviously not. Otherwise someone would have noticed the SUGAR content in them. Sugar is the No. 1 factor fueling the childhood obesity plague in our country.

But it’s not as simple as choosing “low sugar” versions of snack foods and juices. For instance, even Quaker Oats 25% Less Sugar Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bar, offers little in the way of real nutrition. Here’s the breakdown on the label: 100 calories, 3.5 g fat, 75 mg sodium, 17.0 g carbohydrates, 5 grams sugar, 1.0 gram protein.

If that’s not junk food, I don’t know what is.

It’s time we protect our kids–and give them the true nutrition their bodies need. Which includes lean protein, healthy fats, non-starchy veggies, and whole-grain fiber. (And a good, quality multivitamin, too.)

Here are a few of the treats I’d like to see sold in schools:

  • Cheese (but NOT the low-fat plastic-tasting versions people think are healthy).
  • Lean meats–deli turkey and roast beef are perfect for school lunches. Roll them with a layer of spinach in a whole-wheat tortilla. Kids love roll-ups (and they won’t even notice the spinach).
  • Nuts. An easy–and truly healthy–vending machine option.
  • Cut veggies–cucumbers, pepper strips, broccoli, etc. With a side of dip.
  • Water and unsweetened herbal iced tea.

These things would really give kids the fuel they need. Unfortunately, they’re not likely to get them at school anytime soon. So, for now, it’s up to you to make sure they’re getting these nutritious staples at home.

“Think carrots, not candy as school snack, group suggests,” Reuters Health News (, 4/19/12